Fight Girl Battle World
nytheatre.com review by Daniel Kelley
March 8, 2008
You want to see Fight Girl Battle World. You may not know it yet, but you do. Fight Girl Battle World is the latest inspired creation from the Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company—an epic sci-fi comedy for the stage that is relentlessly entertaining and flawlessly executed. It's only running until March 30th, so get tickets right now. Honestly, anything you were planning to do between now and then will be less fun than seeing Fight Girl Battle World.
Fight Girl Battle World takes place in a futuristic universe where humanity has been systemically hunted down and all but eradicated in "The Human Wars." The only human left, a woman named E-V, fights for her life daily as a gladiator on the brutal planet of Battle World. One day, however, General Dan'h—the very person in charge of "The Human Wars"—comes in search of E-V. He tells her there is another human, and that he will help her find this human in order to undo the harm he has done to her people. What follows is a hero's journey that would make Joseph Campbell proud, giving the audience every last sci-fi trope they could possibly want—sarcastic sidekicks, high-tech dog fights, training montages, evil villains, conflicted heroes, and a truly spectacular final battle scene that had the audience clapping and cheering by the end of it.
If you've gotten this far without buying tickets, it's probably because you're thinking "This sounds awesome, but it also sounds like a movie. How could this possibly be a play?" This is where Vampire Cowboys make the leap from creating a cleverly entertaining imitation of another medium to taking ownership of their own theatrical aesthetic. While playwright Qui Nguyen's inspiration is unashamedly from comics, film, and television, Fight Girl Battle World undeniably belongs in the theatre. Both Nguyen and director Robert Ross Parker recognize theatre's unique ability to use the creativity of the artist and the imagination of the audience to evoke a distinct imagined world on stage. Thus, the epic dogfights between the hero and villain become a martial arts stage combat battle between two puppeteers with space fighter puppets. The epic chase scenes and time-lapse training montages become a series of carefully choreographed tableaus and physical scenes; character doubling, trap doors, and utilitarian sets that constantly shift scenes keep the play moving at a pulsating breakneck pace that could keep up with the most complicated film editing. What Fight Girl Battle World does that is unique is claim the imaginative scope of big-budget science fiction movies for theatrical performance in a way that makes it feel complete on stage. The question isn't "Why isn't this play a movie?" but rather "Why can't more movies be like this play?"
This feeling is also, in large part, due to the very strong ensemble. Melissa Paladino is dead-on as E-V, creating a nuanced and sympathetic hero—at once surly, charming, and fallible. Especially memorable is Paco Tolson as the sarcastic robot sidekick, LC-4, who has some of the most laugh-out-loud moments of the evening.
The technical aspects of the play are also excellent. Scenic and lighting designer Nick Francone works wonders with the small space he is given at Center Stage, to create a truly utilitarian environment for the story to come to life. Jessica Wegner's costumes do a great job infusing a strong sense of style into the feel of this sci-fi world. Nguyen's fight choreography is stunning, especially the final battle.
Now that I've finished nerding out over Fight Girl Battle World, please go see it. More than anything, it is contemporary theatre for a contemporary audience that will doubtless do nothing but grow in the years to come. It is very exciting and vital work that should not be missed. I will be back again, and I will bring my friends. Go see it.